Cardiff City’s new striker Emiliano Sala is presumed dead after the plane he was on disappeared over the English Channel while on its way from France to Wales on Monday.
News broke early on Tuesday morning that the plane, a Piper Malibu, had lost contact with authorities while flying over the Channel the previous day. Sala was the only passenger on-board, and is one of two people currently missing, alongside the pilot.
Just four hours after the initial reports confirming that Sala was on the plane, the AFP confirmed that the the 28-year-old Argentine is missing and presumed dead following the plane’s disappearance.
Search and rescue teams were sent out on Monday, but had to be called off due to high winds until Tuesday morning. John Fitzgerald, the chief officer of the Channel Islands Air Search, said to the BBC that the chances of finding someone alive were “reducing very rapidly”:
I think with the sea temperatures and the sea conditions the chances of finding anybody alive are reducing all the time. The sea temperatures are very, very cold and just sap the core temperature of anybody in the water very, very quickly.
The plane lost contact with air traffic control near Guernsey, a British island off of the Northwest coast of France; the pilot had reportedly requested to lower his altitude before the loss of contact occurred near Jersey, another British island off of the Normandy coast.
Sala was on his way to Wales after signing with Cardiff City over the weekend for a club record fee of around $19.3 million. The former FC Nantes man had scored 12 goals in Ligue 1 this season for the Loire-based club, and was sought after by Cardiff City to help them stave off relegation from the Premier League.
Sala tweeted on Saturday about the transfer, saying he was “very happy” to join the Welsh side:
He also tweeted a final photo with his teammates at Nantes, where he had played since 2015:
Cardiff City posted a statement from Executive Director and CEO Ken Choo late on Monday, saying that Tuesday was supposed to be Sala’s first day training with the club (training has since been cancelled):
We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team.
Our owner, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, and chairman, Mehmet Dalman, are all very distressed about the situation.
We made the decision first thing this morning to call off training with the thoughts of the squad, management staff and the entire Club with Emiliano and the pilot.
All of us at Cardiff City FC would like to thank our fans, and the entire footballing family for their support at this difficult time.
We continue to pray for positive news.”
The news of Sala’s disappearance comes just a few months after Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others died in a helicopter crash just outside of the club’s stadium.